NCAA

Students ask Big 12, NCAA to examine Baylor's LGBT policies

Waco Tribune | Rhiannon Saegert | August 2, 2019

Baylor students have written letters to both the Big 12 Conference and the NCAA, asking the organizations to evaluate the university’s treatment of LGBTQ students.

“We write to you as current LGBTQ+ and allied Baylor University students and recent graduates who have been engaged in efforts to ensure that Baylor University’s campus is safe, secure, and hospitable to LGBTQ+ students,” both letters begin.

The authors of the letters include members of Gamma Alpha Upsilon, an unofficial student group that has been seeking recognition from the university since last year, as well as other current students and recent graduates.

“In recent months, LGBTQ+ students have faced particular targeting and harassment on Baylor’s campus, leading thousands of people with connections to Baylor University — alumni, students, parents, current and former faculty members, former trustees, ministers, and faith leaders — to ask that the university reverse its course of discrimination against LGBTQ+ students,” the letters state.

Both letters request that the entities assess Baylor for Title IX compliance in reference to LGBTQ students and closely examine Baylor’s treatment of them as a whole. A Baylor spokesperson said the university is fully compliant with Title IX, a federal law that prohibits discrimination by educational institutions on the basis of sex.

“Baylor is committed to providing a loving and caring community for all students, including those who identify as LGBTQ,” the spokesperson said. “We believe that Baylor is in a unique position to meet the needs of our LGBTQ students because of our Christian mission and the significant campuswide support we already provide to all students.”

The letters come just on the heels of Baylor’s Board of Regents’ meeting with psychologist Janet B. Dean on the subject of LGBTQ students. During a press conference after the meeting, university President Linda Livingstone said Dean was picked because she has spoken at Baylor before and has studied the experiences of LGBTQ students on Christian college campuses for years.

Dean did not respond to requests for comment for this article. “Listening to Sexual Minorities,” a book Dean co-authored, summarizes years of research on the topic and personal accounts from gay, lesbian and bisexual students at Christian colleges.

The book discusses three frameworks for examining the topic: an “integrity” model focused on changing sexual orientation, a “disability” model treating LGBTQ identities as a condition to be managed, or an affirming “diversity” framework. The book does not directly mention so-called conversion therapy, which has been discredited, but makes repeated references to “healing” sexual orientation through prayer.

“Perhaps Christian Communities would do well to reflect on ways to integrate the best of each of these three lenses for healthy, holistic identity development,” the book states. “We haven’t yet seen too many examples of such an integration of frameworks, but we see the need.”

Kyle Desrosiers, a senior in Baylor’s Honors College, wrote Regent Chairwoman Jerry Clements and Livingstone a letter criticizing the decision to bring in Dean two days before the meeting she attended. By chance, he had attended a presentation she gave at Baylor earlier this year and said he found Dean’s perspective disturbing.

“Her anecdotal evidence was stories about people who were queer on Christian campuses, but because of pressure from the church or what they call Christianity, had chosen to give up their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Desrosiers said. “It was very disturbing, because that was the only time I’d heard of any kind of LGBTQ event at Baylor.”

In the meantime, conversations continue far from Baylor campus. BU Bears For All, an organization formed by the authors of an open letter pushing for recognition of LGBTQ student groups at Baylor, is seeking nonprofit status with the goal of pursuing policy changes at Baylor.

The authors of the open letter, Baylor alumni Skye Perryman, Jackie Baugh Moore and Tracy Teaff, said to end discrimination on campus, the university would have to make tangible policy changes.

“It means encouraging (as opposed to discouraging) faculty and others on campus to be vocal in their support of LGBTQ+ students,” they said in a statement. “It means allowing LGBTQ+ students to organize officially and to participate in the life of the campus in all ways that other students are permitted to and to ensure that no student is deprived of any opportunity as a result of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”